People read newspapers at a stand in Dhaka, Bangladesh, January 30, 2019. Mohammad Iqbal Monowar, a student journalist for the Dhaka-based daily Jaijaidin, was suspended from his university over his reporting. Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Bangladeshi student journalist suspended from university over graft report

On August 2, 2023, Bangladeshi student journalist Mohammad Iqbal Monowar was suspendedfrom the state-run Comilla University for reporting on a speech by the university’s vice-chancellor about corruption, according to news reports and Monowar, who spoke with CPJ by phone.

Monowar, 24, was studying for a Master’s in English at Comilla University in eastern Bangladesh while also working as a campus correspondent for the Dhaka-based Jaijaidin national daily since 2019.

On July 31, he published a story in Jaijaidin titled “Corruption prompts development in Bangladesh,” quoting from a speech that the university’s vice-chancellor AFM Abdul Moyeen made at a university event earlier that day.

On August 2, the university sent Monowar a suspension order, reviewed by CPJ, saying that he had distorted the vice-chancellor’s statement and damaged the university’s reputation.

Monowar told CPJ that he was suspended without any due process or a show-cause letter, allowing him to explain why the suspension should not be made, and that the university had not sought any correction from the newspaper prior to taking action.

The journalist said he stood by his reporting and he had an audio recording of the speech.

Student journalist Mohammad Iqbal Monowar was suspended from his studies after publishing a story about Comilla University’s vice-chancellor. (Courtesy: Mohammad Iqbal Monowar)

Monowar’s suspension prompted a protest on August 5 led by former campus reporters. The Bangladeshi Journalists in International Media, a local press freedom group, demanded the withdrawal of the order, saying the decision was “unacceptable” and it had sent a “chilling message” to hundreds of other campus journalists.

Moyeen did not immediately respond to CPJ’s email request for comment.

A university official said the suspension order would remain in place until a probe report on the incident was submitted, according to local media.